It is often difficult to commit to paper what is in someone else's mind. After a number of years of cutting paper and drawing my designs on the computer first, I can look at a map or an object and have a sense about the restrictions I face in turning that into a paper-cut. How big should it be? How tiny are the cuts? How much time will it take under these circumstances? How much land should be left at the shore line? These are questions I know how to answer. Sometimes people have one area they want and ask me how I would map it. I make suggestions, but the conception does not match what they are thinking in their head. In those cases nothing ever gets commissioned.
On occasion though, I am approached because someone wants something particular, as in this case, a map of a certain length. The idea here was to create an unusual frame and so the point was the paper-cut in the frame, not necessarily the actual paper-cut itself. The brief was NYC and done a bit like this map of the Thames I made previously. This is, of course, an ideal situation for me, because I'm able to define the scope of the project. This time I chose to do Manhattan from 125th street to the ferry terminal.
I've always wanted to do a map of Manhattan, but I admit I was a bit concerned about how tiny it would have to be. Only at this scale can you begin to understand how it sprawls and how densely packed this island is. The rivers on both sides lend themselves to paper cutting because the negative space complements the tight dense streets but also sets them apart.